Copper and Beer

Physics, chemistry and biology of brewing. The causes and the effects.

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Copper and Beer

Postby BillyBock » Fri Nov 15, 2002 11:06 pm

Wow, it's been a while since I posted a question. For the chemists among us, I recently read something about copper toxicity for humans--ya know, copper in excess is bad for you type stuff and what the daily safe limits are. So the question is: is it possible to have too much copper in a brewery that it would pose a health risk? Under what conditions does copper leach ions? Does yeast metabolize all or some of the copper ions that are leached? (I know it's an essential nutrient for yeast as it is for humans)

I don't know, maybe I'm worrying and thinking too much. What's the community think?

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Copper Head Road ...

Postby Azorean Brewer » Sat Nov 16, 2002 12:13 pm

Hey Billy, whats happenin', long time no write on my part too.

OK, I want to know what's up with copper too. I have heard/read that copper enhances the yeast metobolic rate so I have been boiling my all garin batches with a 6" X 3/4" piece of copper piping in the bottom of the pot (clean of course). Seems to me that my fermentation takes off quicker, but it could be I am just watching it closer and willing it to do so :-)

Anyone out there with some scientific information ? ? ?

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Postby l48shark » Sat Nov 16, 2002 7:10 pm


It's a good thing you wrote. Your homebrew may be endangering your health. Send me samples immediately for testing. If I am unable to complete my testing with the quantities provided, I will request more specimens, so please do not stop brewing. A full, scientific report will be forthcoming. :D

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Better Off Dead

Postby dartedplus » Sun Nov 17, 2002 5:04 am

I the copper in beer was harmful I'd have been dead long ago!!!!
And yes having copper in your kettle is supposed to help the yeasties, I have yet to do it but it sounds like it works
Ed (drinkin my way to an early demise...assuming copper is bad for me)
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Postby Freon12 » Sun Nov 17, 2002 1:30 pm

The only thing I am aware of regarding copper is that lead is no longer used to join it, and it has a place on the peroidic chart.
Plastic pipe is somewhat a new comer for water pipe so that means most of the water pipes in all our homes are copper and have been for a hundred years even in ion leaching high PH areas.

If there were something bad about this, the cash cow for changing all that line would not be ignored, you want the truth? Follow the money!

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Postby Gravity Thrills » Mon Nov 18, 2002 6:27 am

I fasten a copper scrubbie to the inside nipple of my kettle's drainpipe to filter out hops and break material. I used to use stainless steel scrub pads but figured the yeast would benefit from having the bit of copper in the boil.

I know brass (which is a copper-zinc alloy) has been shown to have negative helth consequences in lab animals (probably at insanely high dosage). In California, brass fittings have to carry a health warning to that effect. I have brass fittings on my kettles and I follow the rule of thumb of soaking them in vinegar prior to use (I think you only need to do this before the first use, but I do it every brew session to keep the tarnish off the fittings.

I don't recall the specifics, but the Mr. Wizard column in the last BYO had a good bit of info on the effects of various metals in the brewing process. The take-home message was that brass and copper were acceptable "hot process" metals, but they should not come into contact with cool wort. Freon's right about copper piping being a part of our household and municipal plumbing for decades. But the low pH of beer versus water is a cause for concern vis extended contact with copper that can leach harmful compounds into the beer. Without sweating the chemistry of it all, I think a little copper in our "coppers" is fine, but stainless is the only metal that cooled wort should touch.

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Nipple clips?

Postby jayhawk » Thu Nov 21, 2002 9:27 pm

How do you keep the scrubbie attached to the nipple? Doesn't it fall off during a vigorous boil? I have been pondering this for a while now as I consider how to upgrade my kettle to the non siphon age.
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The secret...

Postby Gravity Thrills » Sat Nov 23, 2002 8:40 am

Plastic cable ties! Just flatten your scrubbie out and weave a clear plastic, heavy duty (needs to be boil-resistant) plastic cable tie around the bottom, threading in and iut every couple of cm. Then put it up to your nipple and cinch it tight enough that there will be no flow at the edges. This is the simplest and best way I have found to keep hot break and spent hops out of the fermenter.

Where would we be without the cable ties and duct tape?

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